I walked into my kitchen yesterday and was instantly taken back to a place I had not visited for a very long time. I had boiled up some mutton to make Irish stew, and it took me a minute or two, but I was back in Grandad Ken’s caravan.
My Grandad was actually my step Grandad, and for as long as I could remember he lived in a musty caravan at the Brook St Motor Camp. Nearly every Sunday we would venture up there for a visit with Grandad.
His caravan was a long one, perched by the Brook Stream, and he would give us bread to go down to the stream and feed the ducks or eels, or we would go crawlie hunting for fresh water crayfish.
Grandad’s caravan had a musty smell about it, and lots of cupboards that us kids just itched to crawl through. He always sat with a big antique radio over his head and a picture of Amundsen with his horse Oats, which I now have in my possession. In front of him was the flagon and 8oz glass, and in later years, the home brew would be bubbly away in the corner.
He was always thrilled with our adventures and tales that we had to tell, and was proud to call us his grandchildren, he never had any natural children.
Grandad was a recluse, there are very few photos of him, mostly at weddings, or the odd
christmas party, but he didn’t really go for taking photos. I remember him dressing up as Santa for the Brook St Motor Camp Christmas parade one year. He wasn’t very convincing, even to us kids! But he did it, because they asked him too.
Grandad died of cancer on the 12 December 13 years ago, a year and 12 days after Nanna Cath died. They hadn’t lived together for years, but had never divorced, and it was just too hard for grandad to live without her. He was moved to Otumarama Rest Home where he was served drinks at night.
Mum and I had the task of cleaning out his caravan, and I finally got to go through the cupboards that had always intrigued us. We found lots of books including one about lighthouses that we had given him one year for a birthday or Christmas. I also found a vinyl jacket which was the perfect fit for me. It smelled like grandad, and it still does, even now. I went to visit Grandad with Mum the night before he died. He eyed the jacket and looked at Mum, she nodded and he did too. He was pleased to see me wearing it.
I missed Grandad’s death my mere minutes, but I got to hold his hand as Mum and I cried. It was only the last year that I really got to know Grandad, because my image of him had been tainted by my Nanna’s words. They loved each other and hated each other with a passion. That didn’t end with her death, and I can imagine them now arguing in heaven.
Grandad Ken had a hard life, he became a fisherman and lived through many gruelling situations. But he was a memorable fellow. At his funeral, which was held at the RSA (at his instructions) there were many people who spoke very highly of him.
Just after the service and afternoon tea, when we headed home, the next door neighbour played “A white sportscoat and a pink carnation” one of Grandad’s all time favourite song. They never played that song again. I guess he was telling us that he was alright. And happy.
I miss you Grandad. And it was the smell of mutton that made me remember you. Love you x x x